The scale of the hardship caused by Covid-19 has been laid bare with new figures showing that more than a third of claims since universal credit was introduced have been made during the pandemic.
The number of people claiming the payment has doubled since the start of the pandemic, according to data released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
It prompted calls by charities and anti-poverty campaigners for the government to extend a £20-a-week increase to universal credit, which is due to end in March, amid warnings that many families will be forced to rely on food banks or fall into debt.
There were 4.5m claims for the benefit between 13 March 2020 and 14 January this year, according to the DWP figures. It represents 39% of all claims since universal credit was introduced in April 2013.
The latest available figures also show there were 4.9 million households on universal credit in November 2020 – up 2.2 million since March.
More than a third (37.5%) of the 4.9 million households are families with children. More than 1.8 million families with children were claiming the payment as of November, a rise of 51% from March…